May 1st –Maypoles,
floral wreaths and garlands,
small vases of first flowers.
Bursts of color.
“Spring — an experience in immortality.” – Henry D. Thoreau
Lately, I’ve been thinking about a movie I’ve always loved, Enchanted April, based on the 1922 novel by Elizabeth von Arnim. I remembered that I had bought the book a few years ago and decided to read it — and watch the movie again. Set shortly after WWI, the story is about two women who are unhappy with their dreary, loveless lives in rainy London.
After seeing an advertisement for “Wisteria and Sunshine,”
they become filled with the dream of renting a villa in Italy for the month of April.
The impetuous Lotty convinces her friend Rose to make the dream a reality.
They find two other women, who are also dissatisfied with their lives, to join them in order to help lessen the cost, and set off for Italy.
A month of strolling through the terraced hillsides, enjoying the rocky shore, dining al fresco, and resting in the tranquility of the gardens enables their spirits to heal.
The result is a reawakening to life, love, beauty, and newfound friendship .
To “wisteria and sunshine,”
and to healing the spirit.
The novel The Garden House is set in the Pacific Northwest, with most of the action occurring in Seattle. Other books in the fledgling series might be set on the Oregon coast, or perhaps the San Juan Islands, or even — if shop owner Paula gets her way — the flea markets of Paris.
I lived in Seattle for seven years and I visit my sister in Oregon once or twice a year. I’m always struck by the breathtaking beauty of the landscape.
One of the things I love most about the Pacific Northwest is that spring arrives so early in the year.
As I thrill at the inch-high green shoots of crocuses in my tiny garden patch, I imagine The Garden House’s main character, Miranda, already surrounded by spring’s beauty.
I see her out in her garden on a cool morning holding a steaming cup of tea, or on her hands and knees, turning the soil to plant a box of pansies or brushing aside a few dried leaves to uncover a cluster of grape hyacinths.
Or just sitting quietly on a garden bench, taking in the colors and scents of early spring.
I recently spent two weeks in May touring Scotland. I was surprised to find that spring was just arriving, enabling me to enjoy early spring for a second time, especially the farther north we traveled. Daffodils, tulips, and blossoming trees added splashes of color to the landscape. Bluebells, in particular, bloomed in abundance.
In the early part of the trip, there was even a dusting of snow in the Highlands. And though rain was predicted, except for one day, we had beautiful clear weather.
My trip began and ended in historical Edinburgh, a city that has been high on my to-see list for a long time. It did not disappoint.
Edinburgh is the perfect walking city with a fascinating mix of medieval Old Town and Georgian New Town, all surrounded by stunning natural beauty.
Between Old Town and New Town is the verdant stretch of Princes Street Garden, a sunken park in the heart of the city. It was “created in two phases in the 1770s and 1820s following the long draining of the Nor Loch and building of the New Town, beginning in the 1760s.” (wikipedia)
At the head of Old Town is Edinburgh Castle, built on a craggy outcropping of volcanic rock. Though it has an “1100-year-old history…few of the present buildings pre-date… the 16th century, when the medieval defenses were largely destroyed by artillery bombardment.” (wikipedia)
The fortress sits on Castle Rock, one of the seven hills that surround Edinburgh. From this vantage point, you can see two other hills that form part of the city’s identity — Calton Hill, with its Athenian Acropolis, and Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano that can be climbed for panoramic views of the city.
Edinburgh is full of steep stairs, medieval closes, and unexpected passages, such as the Vennel with its views of the Castle,
picturesque Circus Lane (converted mews), which was blooming with irises and fragrant wisteria and lilac,
and Dean Village, a lovely place for a morning stroll. It was “the centre of a successful grain milling area for more than 800 years. At one time there were no fewer than eleven working mills there, driven by the strong currents of the Water of Leith.” (wikipedia)
In addition to Edinburgh’s charming walks and its trove of historical sites, the city has a vibrant music and literary culture, and a wide array of restaurants to sample, from traditional fare to various ethnic cuisines. I was glad to know that I would be returning to Edinburgh at the end of my trip for there was still so much more to see.
But for now, as much as I loved Edinburgh, the Highlands in the misty distance beckoned. (to be continued…)
“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” – Marcel Proust
“April… hath put a spirit of youth in everything.” – William Shakespeare
“There is no glory in star or blossom till looked upon by a loving eye; There is no fragrance in April breezes till breathed with joy as they wander by.” – William Cullen Bryant
“Break open A cherry tree And there are no flowers; But the spring breeze Brings forth myriad blossoms.” – Ikkyu Sojun
“In the cherry blossom’s shade there’s no such thing as a stranger.” – Kobayashi Issa
“The April winds are magical.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Our spring has come at last with the soft laughter of April suns and shadow of April showers.” – Byron Caldwell Smith
The winds were wild the day you died
Pear blossoms scattered like snow.
First green tipped the thin tree branches
And your redbud flowered in purple.
Cold wind and sunshine embraced us
As we crossed from house to house.
And the grass and hedge surrounding your yard
Shone in an emerald green.
I knew you had a hand in it –
Delighting in the April glory.
A day of beauty and laughter
When Heaven touched Earth in joy.
“The snow has not yet left the earth, but spring is already asking to enter your heart.”
“When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest.” – Ernest Hemingway
“That is one good thing about this world…there are always sure to be more springs.”
“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.” — Albert Camus
“If winter comes, can spring be far behind?” –Percy Bysshe Shelley
Images of Ireland and quotes from John O’Donohue’s book, “Beauty, The Invisible Embrace.”
“When we experience the Beautiful, there is a sense of homecoming.”
“When the imagination is alive, the life remains youthful.”
“Beauty calls us beyond ourselves and it encourages us to engage the dream that dwells in the soul.”
“We feel most alive in the presence of the Beautiful for it meets the needs of our soul.”
“The imagination creates a pathway of reverence for the visitations of beauty.”
“With swift, sheer grace, the Beautiful is like a divine breath that blows the heart open.”
“Beauty is quietly woven through our days.”
“The imagination is the great friend of possibility…In a sense, that is what beauty is: possibility that enlarges and delights the heart.”
“Beauty does not linger, it only visits.”
“To experience beauty is to have your life enlarged.”
“When the soul is alive to beauty, we begin to see life in a fresh and vital way.”
“The earth is full of thresholds where beauty awaits the wonder of our gaze.”
“Ultimate beauty is a profound illumination of presence, a stirring of the invisible in visible form.”
“When we awaken to the call of Beauty, we become aware of new ways of being in the world.”
“The eye of the imagination will often be drawn to the edges of things where the visible and invisible worlds coalesce.”
“True beauty is from elsewhere, a pure gift.”
“Everywhere there is tenderness, care and kindness, there is beauty.”
“Irish poet and philosopher John O’Donohue was a native Irish speaker, a former priest, and author of books that provided sustenance for many souls hungering for connection.” (www.npr.org)
(Images from Pinterest)
Some thoughts and lovely vintage images for Mother’s Day from Pinterest:
“A mother is the one who fills your heart in the first place.” – Amy Tan
“Mothers and their children are in a category all their own. There’s no bond so strong in the entire world. No love so instantaneous and forgiving.” – Gail Tsukiyama
“I am sure that if the mothers of various nations could meet, there would be no more wars.” – E.M. Forster
“A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dates all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.” – Agatha Christie
“I will look after you and I will look after anybody you say needs to be looked after, any way you say. I am here. I brought my whole self to you. I am your mother.” – Maya Angelou
“Because even if the whole world was throwing rocks at you, if you had your mother at your back, you’d be okay. Some deep-rooted part of you would know you were loved. That you deserved to be loved.” ―Jojo Moyes
“But behind all your stories is your mother’s story, for hers is where yours begins.” – Mitch Albom
This last quote really resonates with me. Our mom’s “story” became our story: Life is an adventure to be celebrated. You go forth into the world, against the odds, and spread your wings, and follow your dreams. Her story was to live life fully — to do good where you can, to love and protect others, especially children — to laugh often, to remain curious and to read widely, and to always do good where you can. To smile through adversity, and take delight in the small beauties of every day. All this was taught to us by example and was embedded in the details of her life. I tried to capture my mom’s story in my first book, The Dreams of Youth. It is the story behind my story.
Amazon Link: http://a.co/8WKiB33
There’s something about a flowering doorway that moves the heart, that speaks of beauty and happiness.
It greets those who enter by framing them with fragrance, color, and loveliness,
and when leaving the abode, it provides a way of welcoming the day, a portal to pass through sure to initiate optimism and joy.
And if you are simply passing by, it offers a wish for happiness —
a silent act of generosity that bestows the gift of beauty and enriches the viewers, who, if their hearts are open, will carry the sweetness with them.
(all images from Pinterest)